Grief is something everyone experiences at some point in their life. For many it can be harsh, crushing, making it hard to function for a time. But eventual they get past their loss and resume a more normal life. Johannes Nyholm’s (Giant) second film Koko-di Koko-da shows an extreme case of what happens when people can’t get over a loss.
Tobias (Leif Edlund, Tom of Finland. Operation Ragnarok ) and Elin (Ylva Gallon) lost their daughter Maja (Katarina Jacobson) three years ago. On her birthday no less. They’ve never recovered from the loss and their lives and marriage have fallen apart. In true filmic tradition, they decide a camping trip will help restore their relationship.
After their first night, Elin goes into the woods to pee. She’s discovered by Mog (Peter Belli, Journey to Saturn ) and his two companions the hulking Sampo (Morad Khatchadorian) and Cherry (Brandy Litmanen) who looks like she’s auditioning for the next Ring reboot. They kill her, torment and then kill the cowering Tobias. But death isn’t the end of their problems. They awake the next morning, Elin with no idea of what happened, Tobias with a vague idea of what happened. And what will happen again and again.
Koko-di Koko-da is a nasty mix of Groundhog Day and Oliver Stone’s Seizure, with a large dose of arthouse added in. How large? Well, it begins and ends with a puppet show, complete with red stage curtains.
The foreshadowing is laid on thick as well. The film’s first image is of the trio of aggressors walking through the woods, Mog singing the nursery rhyme the film takes its name from. Then we cut to Maja staring at a musical toy in a shop window, one her parents buy her as a present. Can you guess who is depicted on it? The opening shot also links to the ending of Koko-di Koko-da. An ending which is unnervingly ambiguous in its intent.
The meat of the story though is what happens in the woods. It doesn’t take a degree in drama to realize the trio are the physical manifestations of Tobias and Elin’s grief and depression. The increasingly violent and humiliating encounters meant to force them to stop running from their demons and come together to confront them. But can they figure this out in time to save themselves? Unlike other films where time repeats itself, they don’t remember what happened from one episode to the next. There’s just a growing awareness that something is going on.
While a very well made and effective film, Koko-di Koko-da is a hard film to say I liked. But I don’t think it was meant to be liked, it was meant to have an effect. And it certainly does that, even if it means starting each attack with Elin’s pants half down while she pees. The script is that willing to make you uncomfortable.
Koko-di Koko-da has been making the festival rounds and will play Fantastic Fest on September 22nd and 26th. Dark Star Pictures, (Seeds, The Queen Of Hollywood Blvd), has picked it up and will release it in New York and Los Angeles in November. A full US release will follow.